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Time for a Safety Check

Fear of falling and injuries from a fall is a significant concern of both the caregiver and care recipient. For the elderly living at home, one-third to one-half are at an increased potential to fall. Falls can occur because of stairs in the home or obstacles in the walkway. Falls can be related to medical issues such as Dementia, Alzheimer's disease, stroke/CVA, dizziness, fainting, seizures, and other physical and functional disabilities. There are many reasons why an older adult can be the subject of a fall. However, many falls can be prevented.

Exercise: Daily exercise is one of the most important ways to reduce your loved one’s chances of falling. Exercise will improve muscle strength, balance, and stamina. Has your loved one fallen in the past? Check with the doctor to see if they would benefit from physical therapy. Medicare will cover in-home services. Consider an alarm device that will bring help in case of a fall. “Help, Help, I cannot get up.”

Home Safety: Keep all walkways clear and free from clutter. Remove small throw rugs or double-sided tape to keep the carpets from slipping. Keep items that your loved one often uses in cabinets they can reach easily without climbing or using a step stool. If your loved one has a balance issue, encourage them against taking a bath or shower when home alone. Insert grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower. A shower chair, handheld shower, and non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower floors will decrease the risk of falls. Adequate lighting is a must. As one gets older, there is a need for brighter lights to see well. Handrails and good lighting should be present on all staircases. They should avoid wearing slippers and athletic shoes with deep treads.

Medication Review: Have the doctor, healthcare provider, or pharmacist review all medications prescribed, herbal and over-the-counter drugs, for possible side effects, contraindications, or adverse reactions. As one gets older, the way some medicines work can change. Some medications or combinations of medicines can cause you to feel drowsy or lightheaded, leading to falls.

Things to consider: Encourage your loved one to avoid rushing to answer or get to the door and prevent sudden changes in body position. Using a cordless phone will ensure that the phone is readily available. Encourage your loved ones to use their walking device. Check to ensure that the brakes on the walker are functioning, that the device being used is at the right height, and that the rubber tips are not worn. Install stainless steel prongs on canes for safe walking in the winter. Remember that you can reduce the risks of accidents when you make simple changes that will help protect your loved one from falls.

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